Thursday, April 30, 2009

The fake editorial board of Merck's fake bone journal

My previous post was about a fake scientific bone journal produced by Elsevier and paid for by Merck.

I thought it interesting to look at the editorial board - and at the names of my previous esteemed academic colleagues within the bone field who would lend their names to such fakery. The fake editorial board (see here) of this fake journal includes some well known luminaries (Reid, Seeman, Ebeling).

As an aside, Professor Peter Brooks was Executive Dean of Health Sciences at the University of Queensland at the time the University came down hard on Dr Andrew Gunn for asking scientific questions in public about a Merck drug which earns the University a mint (Brooks was not one of the bullies).

Also of interest is the regular appearance of clinicians who held postdoctoral positions at the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota) from 1975 to 1985 in the list of clinicians involved in dubious practices in the field of osteoporosis. In this instance, even though this is an Australasian list, there are two such appearances (Peter Ebeling and Ego Seeman both trained at the Mayo under Professor Larry Riggs).

Editorial board of "The Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine"

Dr Jim Bertouch
Consultant Rheumatologist, NSW

Professor Peter Brooks
Executive Dean (Health Sciences)
University of Queensland

Professor Richard Day
St Vincent's Hospital, NSW

Professor Peter Ebeling
Royal Melbourne Hospital

Professor John Hart
Monash University

Professor Michael Hooper
Concord Repatriation General Hospital

Dr Julien de Jager

Professor Geoff Littlejohn
Monash Medical Centre

Dr Peter Nash

Professor Nicholas Pocock
St Vincent's Hospital, NSW

Professor Ian Reid
University of Auckland
New Zealand

Professor Philip Sambrook
Sydney University

Professor I Ego Seeman
Austin and Repatriation Medical Centre

Professor David Sonnabend
Royal North Shore Hospital

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Fake bone journals

From The Scientist comes news of a fake bone journal produced by Elsevier for Merck. "The Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine" was a bit of fakery which gave the appearance of a proper scientific journal (like the "proper" bone journal, the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research which is reputedly entirely uninfluenced by industry manipulation). Merck apparently paid an undisclosed sum in exchange for the fakery. Sample scans of complete issues are here and here.

The Scientist (free registration required).

Merck published fake journal, Bob Grant, 30th April 2009

[Abstracted summary]

Merck paid an undisclosed sum to Elsevier to produce several volumes of a publication that had the look of a peer-reviewed medical journal, but contained only reprinted or summarized articles--most of which presented data favorable to Merck products--that appeared to act solely as marketing tools with no disclosure of company sponsorship.
The Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, which was published by Exerpta Medica, a division of scientific publishing juggernaut Elsevier. The issues contained little in the way of advertisements apart from ads for Fosamax, a Merck drug for osteoporosis, and Vioxx.
It came to light in the context of a civil suit filed by Graeme Peterson, who suffered a heart attack in 2003 while on Vioxx, against Merck and its Australian subsidiary, Merck, Sharp & Dohme Australia (MSDA).

In testimony provided at the trial last week, which was obtained by The Scientist, George Jelinek, an Australian physician and long-time member of the World Association of Medical Editors, reviewed four issues of the journal that were published from 2003-2004. An "average reader" (presumably a doctor) could easily mistake the publication for a "genuine" peer reviewed medical journal, he said in his testimony. "Only close inspection of the journals, along with knowledge of medical journals and publishing conventions, enabled me to determine that the Journal was not, in fact, a peer reviewed medical journal, but instead a marketing publication for MSD[A]."
A spokesperson for Elsevier, however, told The Scientist, "I wish there was greater disclosure that it was a sponsored journal." Disclosure of Merck's funding of the journal was not mentioned anywhere in the copies of issues obtained by The Scientist.

Elsevier acknowledged that Merck had sponsored the publication, but did not disclose the amount the drug company paid.
The spokesperson added that Elsevier had no plans to look further into the matter.

One of the members of Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine's "Honorary Editorial Board," Peter Brooks, a rheumatologist in Australia, said he didn't recall who asked him to serve on the board, but noted that he was on Merck's Asian Pacific and international advisory boards from the mid 1990s until about 2004, as well as the advisory boards of other pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer and Amgen. "You get involved in a whole bunch of things at this level," Brooks said, adding that he had put his name on "a few advertorials" for pharmaceutical companies about 10 years ago.

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